« ForrigeFortsæt »
panions, and I had time to change the number eight for number two.
Then another night, after long watching and waiting, we tried a drive. Geese have been little hunted in this district; the professionals in their open country seldom see them, and I think most of them would a8 soon kill a snipe as a grey-lag. But Coleman, the head man on this part of the shooting, had a good general idea of their lines of flight, and this evening he showed remarkable strategical skill. The birds had settled on a perfectly flat mountain, and when I took up my position in a little hollow a mile or so away from them I thought the chance of a shot was really hardly worth estimating. They had all the world to go to; the little lake behind us was solidly frozen; the flat beyond it, where they often fed and rested, was so large that they could reach it by a hundred lines and yet be far away from me. But they came right over us; it was a cold, still night; they made as if they would pass far to my left; then they swung round and came straight to the hidingplace. It was a fine sight, I thought, to see their stately advance; there were perhaps fifty of them; they came in a long thin line instead of a triangle; the quiet air kept them very high, but I got a right and left with the big gun: one fell as far off as we could see, and we lost him in the night; the other dropped a quarter of a mile away, and I was in an agony that, without
a dog, we should lose him too. But just when I was beginning to get fretful and hopeless Hall's sharp eye caught him crouching in the thick cover, and we carried him off in triumph.
Two days later we found a great many geese on a large lake. I had with me John Dillon, one of the "sportsmen.' Coleman and I made a long detour, and got what shelter we could by wading out to some tall bulrushes at the head of the lake; while Dillon, who would far rather have continued his snipe - shooting, reluctantly went to put them up. We stood on firm though water-covered ground; a foot from the reeds we were safe; move a foot into them, and you would probably sink out of sight in in the quagmire. Wherever bulrushes grow there is danger. Though the chance seemed a poor one, Coleman's instinct again served me well, and I got a huge gander with the first barrel, and was nearly knocked into the morass by the recoil of the second. Again it was calm, and they came high. The goose fell into the shallow water with a splash, such 88 Я sack of potatoes might make if it was dropped from the clouds.
I do not know if the matter has been noticed by other sportsmen, but it seems to me that the eyesight of the average Irishman is better than that of his brethren in the north and east. I was especially struck by this when stalking in Donegal. The head man, who came from Ross-shire, had told me that some of our
gillies were possessed of extraordinary vision, but I was surprised at what I saw. This was the more remarkable, for none of these men had been long accustomed to deer; they had not been brought up amongst them as Scotch gillies usually are. Their sight was far clearer than that of the Scotsmen; and they could pick up a stag on an autumn-stained hill in a way that was wonderful to me, and sometimes a little humiliating. Here all the keepers and watchers were possessed of extremely good sight, and could follow every twist and turn of a snipe to a very great distance. Many hours altogether I must have spent in an uncomfortable squatted position, first watching the bird and then the men, wondering how many times they were going to turn round and round, first to one point of the compass and then to another. Very often the bird was marked. Sometimes, after endless wheelings, he would come back to the field which he had started from. And the marking was most accurate: there was no guess - work or haphazardness about it. Far or near you were led to the place where the snipe had dropped he might rise wide enough from it, but he had been there.
For picking up a dead bird, I have never seen any keepers half so good. Here, on this spot and no other, the bird came down, and often the tufts of grass behind some mark that had been taken several fields away were carefully divided with the hand, so certain
was the watcher that he was right. Neither did the men lose their bearings if we did not go straight for the snipe. Coleman, Hall, Martin and Connor O'Brien all had this gift. I may give two instances, occurring the day before I write, which illustrate this. I shot a mallard, which fell dead some distance from me. The marsh in front was so treacherous that it was impossible to walk straight to it: we had to make a considerable round to get across a deep stream, and approach the place from the opposite direction. Cautiously feeling the ground beneath us, we made our way into a dense mass of reeds. think I never felt surroundings more dismal or a quest more hopeless: the rain was coming down heavily, and a strong gale of wind was tearing through the eight-feet-high bulrushes, and crashing their brittle stems together. We could only see a few yards through them here and there, and the ground was so rotten that every step had to be carefully taken. Balanced on unhealthy-looking half-submerged tufts, I now and then feebly divided the reeds with my gunbarrels, and heartily wished I had missed the duck. Then Coleman, peering about, spied it, just where he expected, and with some difficulty got to it.
I had a young friend with me that day, a keen sportsman and a good shot, bearing the name of the old founder of Maga.' An hour or so later we watched a small flock of geese take up a quite unapproachable position in the middle of a rushy flat.
He, with the men, made a wide circle and got on the farther side of them, and good luck and good guidance led me to the comfortable shelter of a furze-covered knoll. The first shot he fired put the geese up, and they came almost straight for the hiding-place. I did I did nothing with the first barrel of the eight-bore, and was fortunate in knocking over two with the second: the birds were high, and with the gale behind them travelled at an amazing pace. One fell stone - dead some 100 yards away, and the other, winged, came down in dense cover farther on by the side of a lake. Coleman marked it, splashed through some horrible soft ground, got beyond it, and then came back to the exact spot where the hiding bird was. These were two instances of accurate marking. This was the most remarkable shot I have ever fired, for one of the geese was a bernicle and the other a white - fronted, and I question if I shall ever again kill two species of the Ansers with one cartridge. I had shot a bean - goose a day or two before, so had the three varieties.
Connor O'Brien, an old "sportsman," who looked after part of the shooting, was very clever in calling Golden Plover, imitating their ory so naturally that he would sometimes bring a high-flying bird right down to the gun.
Scolopax," the author of 'A
who knows his ground, and can both stalk and use a rifle, has a great superiority over the usual combination of stalker and shooter, so in the low country he who combines the same sort of qualifications will be successful when a larger party fails. To know the habits of a snipe, his favourite ground, the likely place in that ground where he will be on that particular day, and then to be able to shoot him when he gets up, are advantages which can hardly be overestimated. All men of experience who write about this bird -Sir Ralph Payne - Gallwey and the authorities in 'Fur and Feather' and the Badminton, to give only modern instances touch on this. The amateur will beat the whole of a promising field; the professor, whether gentle or simple, visits one or two places in it, and if he finds nothing there passes on, no matter how "smittle," to use an expressive Cumberland word, the rest of the field appears. The amateur follows up his setter when pointing as
1 A Book of the Snipe. By "Scolopax." William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh and London.
he would if after grouse, or perhaps goes ahead of it. The other man goes ahead too, but often far away from the dog; experience has taught him the most likely spot where that snipe will be, or which way the wind will turn him when he rises. Two is a good number for a party also: most men want some one with them to carry lunch and cartridges, and at times lead a dog, but two will not, when the birds are wild, get so many shots as one. This is where the professionals score; they carry what they want themselves, and shoot invariably alone, and they get snipe when others fail. They move more quietly, and are less observed. It is a pleasure to read everything that "Scolopax" says in the book I have referred to; he treats his quarry all through as being what he once calls him, "a perfect little gentleman."
"Scolopax," like all the other writers on the subject, discusses the pros and cons of walking after snipe with, or against, the wind; it is a matter which can be argued about for ever. For my own part, I would never if I could help it shoot except down wind, and the stronger it is the more important it seems to me to go with it. With dogs or without,-provided they are welltrained ones, following up a marked bird, and, with some small reservation here, following a wounded bird,-I would keep the wind in my back if I could. I differ, with some diffidence, from this authority on
the point of reloading at once, or waiting "for half a minute or so with the left barrel only charged." But with powerful ejectors the reloading is done so swiftly, and the second cartridge gives me so much additional confidence, that in this respect I do not follow his advice. And more emphatically and with much greater confidence I demur to his suggestion about an important part of the luncheon. drink a flask of claret; spirits are clammy on the marshes." When suffering cold from frost it is known that the latter are unsafe, but when cold from damp I would let who would have the flask so long as I had-in strict moderation-the whisky.
Through the courtesy of the Editor I hope to be able to give in a future number a further account of our experiences in this western county. Up to the date at which I am writing, the first week in December, the season and the weather have fought against us in every possible way. The detailed description of a very large bag made under the most favourable circumstances need not necessarily be interesting; it may well be the case that the exact opposite to thisthe history of a day when everything went extremely badly-might find a larger number of readers. Of this latter phase I can undertake to give a faithful account without thinking it at all needful to wait and see what Fortune and the New Year may bring me.
DEMAGOGUES OLD AND NEW-THE CAD IN POLITICS-MR LLOYD-
IF the demagogues who now aspire to the absolute dictatorship of England were at the pains of studying the history of the past, they might see as in a glass their own grim shapes, they might surmise the untoward fate which surely awaits them. Aristotle, who understood most things which concern politics, had a perfect knowledge of Mr Lloyd-George and his friends. He described the kind of government which they affect as the fifth form of democracy, in which not the law but the multitude has the supreme power, and supersedes the law by its decrees. "This is a state of affairs," he says sternly, "brought about by the demagogues." Now the demagogues then, as always, had one dominating ambition, which was to make the decrees of the people override the laws, and refer all things to the popular assembly. Their method is precisely the same as that adopted to-day. If aught seems to puzzle their judgment, they are content to murmur, "Let the people be judges," and the people is too happy to accept the invitation. "Such a democracy," admits Aristotle, "is fairly open to the objection that it is not a constitution at all; for where the laws have no authority,
there is no constitution." That state of anarchy which Aristotle
the wise condemned, seems a counsel of perfection to our democrats of the fifth class. The passionate fury wherewith they attack the House of Lords proceeds from their desire to make the people supreme, not because they believe that the supremacy of the people is useful for the State, but because they hope that by judicious flattery they may keep Demos, that savage tyrant, always on their side.
Mr Lloyd - George and his friends not merely pursue the same end; they employ the same tactics as seemed good to Aristotle's demagogues. "They
They are always cutting the State in two by quarrels with the rich " : they attack the notables by dividing their property, or by confiscation, or by the imposition of public services, which diminish their incomes. And all the while they make obeisance before the Sovereign People, and believe that there is a virtue in their half-oringing, half-truculent attitude. One of the worst results of this vicious system is a general debasing of public life. The demagogues, having brought within the net of their franchise